The unthinkable happened to Steve Longa on Thursday. His father was struck and killed by a car in Pennsylvania at the young age of 55. Longa was left with an impossible decision: tend to his family immediately or play for the Detroit Lions on Sunday.
He courageously chose to travel to Minnesota to play for the Lions, a team that desperately needed linebackers considering they were without their starting middle linebacker Jarrad Davis once again.
Longa entered the game as a reserve backup, but when Paul Worrilow left the game early, Longa was asked to contribute significantly on defense for the first time this season.
In total, Longa played 12 defensive snaps along with 17 more on special teams. Longa finished tied for third on the team with four total tackles.
After the game, the Lions offered a heartfelt gesture to their loyal teammate, giving him the game ball for Sunday’s victory.
“He’s a courageous young man and his father was really close to him as well,” head coach Jim Caldwell said on Monday. “So it certainly took, I think, a lot for him to go out and do what he did.”
Lions defensive Haloti Ngata was the player to present the ball to Longa, having been through tragedy himself. “Haloti did it because Haloti lost both his parents early,” Caldwell said. “He wanted to give it to him because he understands and has gone through exactly what Steve’s going through right now.”
According to Caldwell, Longa spent Monday with family to attend to his affairs and be with loved ones.